“TICK HALL” DOCUMENTARY: “CSI” MEETS “THIS OLD HOUSE”
Originally published January 28, 2010
Have I got a brilliant DVD for you to love on a cold beach night…
“From the Ashes: The Life and Times of Tick Hall” is the amazing story about the world’s first forensic architectural rebuild of a 125 year-old private beach home in Montauk, Long Island.
In 1997, the beachfront home Tick Hall – named because the original owners spent part of their summer evenings picking insects off guests and dogs – burned down. The current owners, former talk show host Dick Cavett and his wife Carrie Nye, felt as if they “lost the moon” when the house was destroyed.
Weeks after the fire, Nye became determined to replicate the home they lost, which was one of the first examples of American Shingle-Style architecture and built by shipping magnate Arthur Benson in 1883.
With no historical data such as the original building’s plans, Nye empowered a team of architects, conservators and artisans as they went on a groundbreaking three-year research and rebuild journey documented by brilliant Filmmaker Scott Morris of New Jersey.
“I wanted not a nice copy but the same exact place. The house had to be back, like the fire never happened. The feeling had to be recaptured,” said Nye in the spectacular documentary.
“When we first discussed Tick Hall, Carrie made it clear that she did not want the documentary to be a vanity piece,” said Morris. who has also produced a short film about the Asbury Park boardwalk decades ago. “She wanted it to be inspiring, capture joy and be about art and how you cope with losing something emotionally valuable. The theme of loss and healing is woven throughout the film using the house as a metaphor.”
The documentary “From the Ashes: Life and times of Tick Hall,” captures the excitement and passion of the team as they replicate the house to exacting detail plank for plank, brick for brick using old photos, memories, charred rubble and old interior design sketches.
Nye measured in “dog lengths” referencing a photo of her dog in the old kitchen and then using the dog in-person. Specific stairs had to creak. Door saddles had to look like they had been walked on since the 1880’s. Gorgeous brass doorknobs had to show wear.
“It was hard to get the contractor to understand that we wanted the porch to sag and the ceiling in the living room to slump,” said Nye. “We had to have reclaimed southern pine for the trim. The wood today is on steroids and just would not work for this house.”
She believed that some of the original mistakes in the house – decades ago called the “Dream Castle” by Tennessee Williams – were the best parts of the home’s character.
“Carrie always had the attitude of ‘as God as my witness Tick Hall will rise again’,” said Morris. “Dick was very skeptical the entire three years (of construction).”
The final scenes of the documentary filmed in October 1999, will make you smile and gasp.
“We went to bed as if nothing ever happened,” said Nye.
This 57-minute documentary brings to life the sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes-exhilarating process of rebuilding – or renovating – a treasure of a home. I can’t express to you enough how much you will love “Tick Hall” – the house and the documentary.
Special thanks to David Bates of Ocean Grove who introduced me to the documentary.